Emergency crews practice ice rescue

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If you ever find yourself or someone else has fallen through the ice into frigid waters, time is of the essence.

"They have one minute to get their breathing under control," explained Chip Sunier with Indiana's Department of Homeland Security.

After that minute goes by the victim has a few minutes where they might have the chance to get themselves out of danger.

"They have 10 minutes of active physical activity that they can save themselves, possibly," said Sunier.

Before long though, the victim will just be holding on, hoping someone is close by that knows how to rescue them from their dire situation.

Every year, according to the state's Department of Homeland Security, two people die in Indiana in an ice related incident.

That's why 15 fire departments from across the state gathered at Camp Atterbury Saturday to learn proper ice rescue techniques from Homeland Security, Indiana State Police and the Department of Natural Resources.

The training program was developed in 2011 after an ice related death the year before in Columbus.

"Once the victim goes under water, his chance of survival drops drastically," said Sunier of how critical time is in an ice rescue.

That's why the training taught first responders how important it is to keep talking to the person in the water.

"We're getting a ladder to you, ok? Keeping staying afloat. You can do it," said one rescuer in training to a pretend victim, in protective gear submerged in an icy retention pond.

"Convincing them you are going to be saved. This is a survivable situation and we will get you out of it," said Sunier of what are critical communication in the moments before help gets there.

Next comes the rescue itself.

"Unless you have the equipment, do not go out on that ice or you'll be a victim also," explained Sunier.

"Do a reach. Don't put somebody out there. It's too dangerous," Sunier told those gathered on the bank of the retention pond.

Instructors taught fire fighters how to use tools to reach out to the victim, tools like a rope, a ladder, even a broom.

"Grab the rope. Grab the rope. Hold on, we'll pull you up," said one of the trainees to someone in the water.

"When the ladder gets to you, I want you to climb a ladder and grab a rung and climb on and we'll pull it," said another trainee using a ladder to do a rescue.

All of it though, said Sunier has to be done quickly because there's not a lot of time in frigid water.

"Your body shuts down and they can sit on that ledge of ice for about an hour and then they just give up and slip and they're gone," said Sunier of how quickly a victim can be lost.

With the proper knowledge though and the right tools, falling through the ice doesn't have to be a death sentence.